It’s silly and it’s goofy, but it’s also laidback, fun summer escapism with a great setting and a winning lead.
This recap of Reef Break Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”, contains spoilers.
Reef Break is the kind of show you have to respect because it’s the kind of show that knows exactly what it is and doesn’t have any interest in being anything else. With its very name redolent of the quintessential goofy surf movie, and a tropical aesthetic that evokes Magnum P.I. and Hawaii Five-O, you have a good idea of what you’re going to get before you even start watching. And spoiler alert: That’s exactly what you get.
This is a good and a bad thing, depending on where you’re sitting. Reef Break is easy to watch and fun to follow along with, provided you can tolerate some of its more farfetched elements, but it’s also low-effort wish-fulfillment that doesn’t really reward one’s attention with anything all that substantial or compelling. What you’re looking for in your laidback summer escapism will ultimately determine how you get on with Reef Break, but it makes a respectable effort to entertain regardless.
Poppy Montgomery stars as thief-turned-island-gadabout Cat Chambers, a woman who’s no stranger to flirting with both men and the law. She’s an interesting choice for a protagonist, older than women usually cast in such roles, but she makes the most of it; any ginger woman with the gumption to stroll around the tropics without suncream is clearly made of sterner stuff. She’s hired by the governor of the fictional Pacific Island of Nimitz Bay to basically be the lead in a show like this; solving mysteries and getting into scrapes, such as embroiling herself in the disappearance of a prominent citizen’s daughter here in Reef Break Episode 1.
It’s a played-out concept but it mostly works here, in part because Reef Break is perfectly content to lean against its pretty setting and winning lead rather than the particulars of its mysteries, although it’s quite willing to deploy a twist here and there. Other residents of the island include Cat’s ex (Ray Stevenson) and the local police detective Wyatt Cole (Desmond Chiam), helping to flesh out a small but likable cast.
As the season progresses it’s hard to tell whether Cat and co. will wear out their welcome, but as a concept, Reef Break is about as inoffensive and easygoing as things get.